Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Quilting in 2014

As 2014 comes to an end, it is time to reminisce and celebrate quilting highlights from the year including...
22 FINISHES!!!  Including 8 lap or larger size quilts, 7 baby/crib quilts, 7 mini/wall hangings, 4 UFOs, 18 quilts started and finished in 2014
4 QUILT CHALLENGE ENTRIES (clockwise from top left to bottom left):  2014 Hoffman Challenge, American Made Brand Farm to Fabric, Cherrywood Wicked Challenge and SCVQA Blast from the Past.
And how did I do with this year's New Year's Resolutions?!?
1.  Explore EQ7:  I uploaded the software onto my computer, watched all the tutorial videos, uploaded some fabric samples but really need to spend more time playing around with original designs.  I am signed up for the EQ7 Quick Start class starting 1/1/15.

2.  Learn how to hand dye my own fabrics:  read/collected several books on the topic and was dying to start, but wimped out.  But I am hoping to carry this one into 2015.

3.  Continue my Free Motion Quilting Education and Experimentation:   I started the new year off with a brand new pair of machingers and they worked their magic as I added all kinds of amazing quilted texture to quilts of all sizes.  I completed Leah Day's Free Motion Fillers vol 1 and 2 and created a fabulous reference quilt to hang in my studio.  I also completed several other Craftsy classes with Jacquie Gering, Patsy Thompson, Ann Peterson, Cindy Needham and Angela Walters.  And now that my quilting skills have improved, I find myself using more and more solids on the reverse side creating a whole cloth quilt effect to really allow my quilting to shine!  And my thread collection continues to expand!

4.  Continue my UFO Conquest:  2014 started with a large assortment of UFOs at various stages of progression.  I quickly realized that several no longer held my interest and so I organized a UFO exchange for my guild where I exchanged 3-4 of my unloved UFOs and took home 3 fun and fabulous new projects that yielded 4 finishes!  I also finished 4 large UFOs from past years.  I managed to complete 18 projects that were started this year and added a few new UFOs, all of which were fairly small and should be quick and easy to finish in 2015.

5.  Use What's Already In My Studio/Stash:  Several new projects were made almost entirely from my stash (rather than purchase all new fabrics):  both Technicolor Safari Sweet Dreams; both Interleave quilts; both Pandamonium quilts; Morning, Noon & Night; Fuse the Grid quilts; Amish Glow; and Whole Lotta Modern View.  While most of the challenge quilts required new fabric purchases as certain fabrics were required to meet the entry guidelines, I made sure to use a lot of the tools and notions to complete those challenges.  ;-)

Additional 2014 Highlights
Other 2014 Highlights include:  UFO Exchange where I exchanged 3-4 unloved projects for 3 new ones that yielded 4 finished projects; 2 quilts accepted into PIQF--Panda-monium and Fluttering & Voluptuous Vortex; Owl You Need Is Love accepted into 2014 Hoffman Challenge Travelling Exhibit with one of its first stops to Sarasota Florida to meet my mother!; Wicked Windy & Winding Ways accepted as one of 20 Finalist travelling to NYC Broadway and other national venues; Fields of Quilted Dreams unveiled at Houston International Quilt Festival; taking workshops with renowned quilt artists Sue Benner, RaNae Merrill, Gloria Loughman and Therese May; and mentoring a young new quilter Alex.

I've also been busy thinking ahead to all that awaits in 2015!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

We would never sneak a peak at our stockings!

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for Skippy & Panda snooping around for Santa Clause; 

This year's handmade ornaments were hung on the tree with care, 
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

This year's ornaments turned and stained by Doug, and embellished by Mel
Is it time to open presents yet?!?
Skippy was all nestled and snug in his bed;
While visions of persimmons and squirrels danced in his head.

When out on the lawn here arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Alas, it wasn't a brand new sewing machine for Mel.
But instead a hand-made basket filled with goodies that were all super awesome and swell.
Pretty sweet sewing loot:  books, fabric, tools and notions!!
Alex & her first sewing machine, followed with a lesson to learn some of its many features
But for one very lucky girl, a sewing machine was nestled under the tree,
Ready to bring hours and hours of sewing and quilting glee.

Wishing all a very "Crafty Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chartreuse Cheater Bargello

Striped fabric that does all the work
This past Spring, I visited several of our affiliate quilt shops to purchase gift certificates for the UFO Exchange, including The Nimble Thimble, down in Gilroy.  While checking out, I spotted a fabulous Bargello quilt hanging behind the cash register that featured a batik stripe instead of piecing strip sets.  I asked the shop owner for her permission to photograph and was on the search for striped fabrics that I could recreate my own cheater Bargello quilt.

Once all my summer quilt challenges were done and submitted, it was time for a quick, easy and relatively simple project that wouldn't require as much brain power.  So I pulled out some of the striped fabrics and went to work trying out my Cheater Bargello quilt and decided on this mostly chartreuse stripe with little bursts of color adjacent to the black bands.
Staggered strips creating the Bargello effect

The yardage was stitched into a large tube that was then sliced into strata strips.  Scissors were then used to cut open each tube to stagger the top and bottoms to create the Bargello look.

The top was pieced and pin-basted in just a few hours...easy peasy!  But how best to quilt such a simple top?!?

I added a pop of color to the black bands stitching my favorite figure 8's using a Ramses Red King Tut variegated thread by Superior Threads.  I am amazed at how it really transformed the overall quilt top and added a bit of warmth to the stark black bands!

When it came time to the chartreuse bands, I ran out of ideas and tucked the quilt away into my UFO pile until this past weekend when I was looking to wrap up a few UFOs before the end of the year.

I just started with the center yellow band and stitched in some chain of pearls that were then bounce echoed across one strata set.  Seeing the bounced echoes reminded me of the flowers that were stitched in alternating rows just to mix things up.

Detail Shots of Free Motion Quilting for a great pop of texture to this easy to piece top

A simple black binding was stitched on entirely by machine for a quick and easy finish.  Here is a picture of my label and back of the quilt.  

Chartreuse Cheater Bargello
Now that you finished up that UFO--is it time for play, petting or walkies?!?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whole Lotta Modern View

Lotta Jansdotter Bella fabrics cut and ready to piece
This is our rainy season in Northern California, which provides the perfect excuse to stay indoors and wrap up some WIPs.  However, all this rain has created some delays in photographing finished quilts!  So without further ado, here is one of the larger start and finishes of 2014:  Whole Lotta Modern View.

This was started back in February 2014, based on McCalls Quilting magazine pattern from January/February 2013:  Modern View designed by John Kubiniec, featuring Lotta Jansdotter's Bella fabric collection.  This pattern certainly appealed to me, but it is rare that I use the same fabrics as featured in the pattern quilt.  But a few days later, I saw a few of the fabrics in my local quilt shops and I picked up a few here and there and the next thing I knew, I had all the fabrics to create this quilt.
Quilt Top Sans Borders
The piecing went super quick, especially since the blocks are fairly large with minimal seams involved.  Once the top was done, I was unsure of borders.  I had selected an alternate print for my borders, but still didn't love it.  I had plenty of spare yardage and drafted up some alternate border ideas, none of which truly appealed to me.  I kept mulling it over and soon other quilts were taking priority, so Modern View top and yardage were stowed away to make space for more current projects.

Fast forward to November, and I decided to pull out my top to work out a border idea.  And then it dawned on me that this quilt really did not need large borders, and so I left it as is.  Much of the extra yardage, including border print was diverted to a pieced backing, so I could layer and baste for quilting!

An all over motif seemed best for this quilt top, so more Serpentine quilting--this time horizontal lines!  Despite a lot of pin basting, I did find the fabric shifted a little and so I had to adjust part way through.  But all in all, it provided great texture to the front and back, without detracting from the simple design or fabric patterns.

For this quilt, I also did all the binding by machine.  While I usually enjoy the handwork, with the holidays rapidly approaching, I simply did not have the downtime to dedicate to hand stitching the binding.  But I still like the look and had it done in a morning!  And then I had to wait several days for the rain to stop so I could take pictures of the finished quilt--which pops against the dreary and wet environment.

So enjoy Whole Lotta Modern View!

Whole Lotta Modern View front
Reverse side--I love how the tree print fabric flows into the wintry tree in the background

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Alex's First Quilt Finish: Ice Cream Madness

Alex* came over this past weekend to work on her ice cream quilt top--started at Alden Lane's Quilting in the Garden.  She brought all her supplies, fabrics and her quilt top neatly folded and we got to work towards her first finished quilt.  

Alex's First Quilt:  Ice Cream Madness
She started by pressing the quilt top while I located some batting scraps and backing fabric, to show her how to layer and pin baste a quilt top.  I demonstrated spacing with a few pins and left the rest to her to pin and close.  We then mapped out a quilt designs.  I offered to free motion quilt the center block to help the ice cream cone really pop but wanted her input on designs and sketched out a few ideas including some spirals which she loved.  We then moved onto the borders and she liked Bernina #4 Serpentine stitch which should could do on her own.  She then helped to audition and select thread colors for each section.  While I tackled the free motion quilting, I had Alex design and create her own quilt label to document her very first quilt.  Once the label and fmq'ing were complete, it was time for Alex to take over with quilting the borders.  She got a quick demonstration of using the walking foot as a guide and travel stitching in the ditch as I quilted the first two lines of serpentine quilting.  Then it was time for her to sit in the driver's seat with me close by.  She quickly picked up on slowing down as she approached the seam lines, switching out stitch selections, stitching in the ditch and then travelling back with more serpentine quilting.  After the first complete border, she was completely on her own as I went to work on my own project.  We moved onto basting the edges which she pinned/stitched, attaching her new label and then I helped with stitching on the binding.  

Alex smiling with her first quilt finish

Show and Tell Introduction
To celebrate this first finish, Alex was invited to attend our guild's holiday party to show off her new quilt.  She was a fabulous helper during the party set up and decorations.  When it was time for our meeting's show and tell time, she went up on her own, signed in her quilt and introduced herself and the title of her new quilt.  She admitted she was a little nervous but what a great experience for her to practice her public speaking skills in a really positive and welcoming environment.  I got up after her to share that it was her first quilt and we are thrilled to welcome youth into the world of quilting.  During the break, several guild members sought her out to welcome her to the quilting world and offered praise on her first quilt.  On the drive home, she was already planning out future quilt endeavors.  Hopefully I can bring her to some future evening quilt meetings and events.  Until then, we will have to plan our next quilting date to start her next project! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Technicolor Safari Sweet Dreams

I look forward to learning about family and friends who are with child, as it means its time to whip up a baby quilt.  And I will admit to being even more giddy when I learn it will be a baby girl.  So when a friend shared she was expecting a baby girl, I was anxious to get quiltin'.  When inquiring about the nursery plans for ideas for theme and colors, she shared that she had selected a Lion King/Jungle theme but indicated she was keeping the colors gender neutral as she was trying to shield her from stereotypical gender roles.

Origami Oasis Prints

While at PIQF, these fabulous giraffe prints from Origami Oasis collection caught my attention.  After passing by this booth several days in a row, I finally purchased some yardage and coordinating prints in the last hour of the show--seriously, who could resist those adorable giraffes?!?

Fabric Palette of black and white prints and Kona solids

I pulled out Kona solids in various shades of yellow/oranges, pinks/purples, teals and lime greens, along with some black and white prints including some zebra stripes.  I absolutely loved this cheery (gender neutral but certainly not color neutral) palette and went to work researching quilt patterns that would incorporate them all!  I found inspiration with this fabulous quilt posted on Pinterest.   

I drafted up a basic block design, went to work sewing strip sets and cutting them down into individual blocks.  Turns out I had enough blocks to piece 2 quilt tops!

Serepentine Quilted Texture
After hours and hours of researching quilt designs, I thought the hardest part was behind me.  Nope--the most challenging part of these quilts was laying out the blocks so that the solid colors did not touch each other!  Whenever I tried to swap out a block, it would set forth a whole chain reaction of blocks that would then need to be exchanged.  But finally I settled on 2 layouts and went to work piecing the rows and columns and backing.  Both were quilted with serpentine quilting, which is super fast and easy, yet provides such amazing quilted texture!

The two quilts differ slightly in terms of backing designs and one of the quilts has some blocks with Origami Oasis prints on the front, whereas the second quilt is all solids.  I love both quilts and glad to be able to hold onto one of the tops for a while longer to admire!

When it came time to photograph both finished jungle-themed quilts, well the local park's jungle gym seemed an appropriate setting!

Technicolor Safari Sweet Dreams with all solids
Reverse Side featuring Origami Oasis yardage
Technicolor Safari Sweet Dreams featuring some prints within the blocks
Adorable panel print used as the quilt backing
Sitting Side by Side: Technicolor Safari Sweet Dreams Baby Quilts

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quilting is in my DNA

My guild is celebrating our 40th anniversary this year.  As part of the year-long festivities and our biannual quilt show, the guild is hosting a "Blast from the Past" quilt challenge.  Members were invited to create a small quilt (perimeter not to exceed 52") based on an personal and/or world wide event from the past 40 years.  We had to include 4 square inches of red fabric (since this is our ruby anniversary) along with the date(s) of the event in the fabric, embellishment or quilting.

Monday is the entry deadline and I actually finished my entry ahead of schedule!  Although I will confess to significant procrastination!  Here is the evolution of my quilt entry...

While brainstorming events from the past 40 years, my mind quickly jumped to great tragedies such as 9/11 and the Challenger explosion (which occurred on my birthday).  But then I feared that creating such a quilt would take an emotional toll and that my quilting would never do justice to either event.  

Jelly Roll of Kaffe Stripes ordered from
Instead, I sought out more uplifting events and researched some of the significant technological advancements and scientific discoveries from the past 4 decades.  The Human Genome Project really piqued my interest and a quick image search via Google and Pinterest yielded loads of DNA related motifs, patterns and designs that would be fun for me to translate into fabric.  I was especially captivated by images of computer monitors displaying color bands representing DNA sequencing which reminded me of striped fabrics.  I found a jellyroll of Kaffe Fassett woven stripes which provided a rich variety of colorways, band thicknesses and patterns.  

Pieced DNA Sequence Backdrop
While I had found the perfect fabric, I was still teasing out the perfect design.  I kept searching for design inspiration and found a few nuggets of ideas but nothing ever dazzled me.  With the deadline rapidly approaching, I finally dove in by slicing up some colors and sewing them together.  I had thought about doing an all red section but once that section was done, I laid some purple stripes next to it followed by some blues and teals and really liked the bands of gradated colors radiating out from the red center.  
But now what?!?  I thought about appliqueing some silhouettes of the human body and found all different images that could have worked, but the truth was, I didn't love it nearly as much as I liked my backdrop.  So rather than cover it all up with random bodies in motion, I preserved the DNA bars with some basic stitch in the ditch quilting and added some information about the event, since it had not been decided whether our artists summaries would accompany our quilts at time of judging, and I feared that others may not immediately recognize that these bars represented DNA sequencing.  Since I also needed to include the date, I created a small banner plaque to include the date and a President Bill Clinton quote about the significance of the Human Genome Project, which I sliced into the striped background.  I really love the double helix design and was hoping to incorporate it somewhere into the quilt's design or quilting and the large borders seemed the perfect backdrop to free motion some double helix's using variegated threads.  
Fabric Plaque Commemorating the Human Genome Project
Last but not least, I chose to finish the quilt with a facing rather than a double fold binding.  Having never done a quilt facing, I turned to Gloria Loughman's Linear Landscape Craftsy class for her lesson on finishing our quilts using her facing technique (rewatching the lesson as needed for the more technical aspects of this technique) and I am rather pleased with the finished look completed 3-4 days before the deadline--go me!!!
DNA Mapping:  Our Past, Present and Future (Finished Size 12"x14")
The membership will vote at our January and February meetings and the quilts will be on display for our March 2015 Quilt Show.  I can't wait to see what my fellow guild members created for this fun challenge!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Quilting Kim's Kitties

My friend, Kim started Quilting for Mary, in honor of her friend Mary, a survivor of breast cancer.  Kim has worked hard to set up this organization and is dedicated to making quilts for breast cancer patients to create a fabric hug to help survivors through treatment and recovery.  She and several of her fellow quilters get together regularly to create quilt tops/backings that are then quilted and distributed to several local hospitals serving cancer survivors.  While I am not able to attend any of her sew days, I have supported her efforts by forwarding along fabric strips and yardage from my stash.
Kim's Kitties Quilt Top In Progress

Recently, Kim asked if I might be willing to quilt one of their new crib/lap sized quilt tops they would be selling at an upcoming holiday bazaar, to help raise some additional funds for Quilting for Mary efforts.  Her group had created such a fun and cute top using the Cat City Quilt Pattern, and she wondered if I might be willing to do a simple all over pattern.  Of course I agreed to help out, and upon seeing an in-progress picture of all the cute cats and fun fabric prints, I asked her if she would mind if I did a bit of customized quilting, as I am a lot like Angela Walters, who easily gets bored doing the same design over and over again.  She said "have at it" and delivered the quilt top, batting and backing at our next rendezvous.  

I brought it home and had a closer look at all the prints and designs, and then pulled out an assortment of Aurifil threads in pinks, orange, yellow, lime green, and black.  Last Sunday, I started to layer and pin baste the quilt.  Monday morning I started to stitch in the ditch along the black border and then moved onto ditching and filling in each of the green sashings in my favorite figure eight motif.  Throughout the week, I would quilt a few kitties here and there, tackling a different color at a time.  By Friday, all the cats were quilted and Sunday I stippled the light pink backgrounds and quilted the borders in lime green and hot pink Wiggly Tentacles (that looked a lot like cat ears).  In just one week--the entire top was custom quilted!   Of course, when you are having fun, time tends to fly by; and this was a very fun top to quilt.  I just loved all the colors and patterns!  I really hope it helps to raise a lot of funds for her group to continue all their fabulous work within the community!!
Detailed Shots of Quilted Kitties
Back all quilted--love the pair of cats hanging out on the back
Kim's Kitties All Quilted
Thanks to Kim and her group for a really fun project to quilt and serve as quilt therapy during a really crazy week.  Now it's time to move onto some long awaited projects...and perhaps a quick cat nap?!?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating Farm to Fabric

Despite the low blog activity this summer, I was a very busy girl working on a variety of quilt challenges, including one that I couldn't share until today: "Celebrating Farm to Fabric" sponsored by American Made Brand solid fabrics.  Quilters were invited to design and make a quilt made entirely from their new solid fabrics that are produced entirely in the United States.  Quilt entries had to speak to what it meant to us, our family or our community to bring fabric production back to the United States to use in our American Made quilts.

Draft Sketch of Fields of Quilted Dreams
As per my usual, I started to research cotton production and was inspired by several images of a row of cotton harvesters staggered in a line across enormous cotton fields to harvest rows of cotton fibers, leaving behind a wake of empty brown rows.  The cotton harvested could then be spun and woven into fabric for quilters to create the quilt of our dreams.  So instead of leaving a wake of brown empty fields, I wanted to create a wake of fun, fresh and modern quilt patterns representing all the potential for the cotton harvested.

Below is a fun bundle of American Made Brand solids I selected for this project which included a variety of aquas, greens, gold/yellow, oranges and even some browns, which rarely make it into my quilts.

Bundle of American Made Brand Solids

Using this fun palette of colors, I then set out to create a variety of rows featuring modern block construction, techniques and designs--each featuring a different background color to create a gradation from top to bottom.  Some designs I just knew I wanted to include all along, while others were a bit more improvisational depending on which fabrics/colors were still remaining.  But here are some pictures of the quilt rows throughout construction.

Fabric and Lego Interpretations of Cotton Harvesters
Once all my modern quilt rows were constructed, I then created my little cotton harvester blocks complete with yellow prairie points to represent the picker heads that collect all the cotton fibers from the plants.

It was then time to add the white and brown sections representing the rows before and after the cotton harvest.

Now the quilt top construction was still taking place in the week prior to the August 1st deadline, and did not leave much time for me to tackle the quilting or finishing.  Much to my sheer delight and relief, I decided to revisit the website to make sure my quilt design met the judging criteria, and learned that the deadline was extended 2 full weeks...hallelujah!!  This extension made a huge difference in allowing me ample time to add all the quilted texture to really bring this quilt top to life.  And I finished hand stitching the binding/sleeve the morning of the deadline...phew!

Here is the finished quilt followed by detail shots of the quilting and design.
Finished Fields of Quilted Dreams
Detail Shots of Modern Design and Quilting
Another finished quilt/Lego picture 

I was thrilled to receive an email informing me that my quilt was juried into the exhibit, which would debut at the Houston International Quilt Festival and Quilt Market, October 25th through November 2nd.  One of my fellow guild members attended and posted some pics, but I've been trying to learn more information about the other quilts that were juried into the exhibit.  Hopefully something more will be posted soon!  But until then, enjoy my post of Fields of Quilted Dreams.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 PIQF Part 3: Shopping!!

What quilt show is complete without a few purchases here and there?!?  With over 300 vendors, there were lots and lots of temptations.
Purchases for Fun New Projects:  Patterns, Stencils, Threads and Needles!

A little Fabric therapy--including some gorgeous Cherrywood Fabric!!
Wednesday night was Preview Night at PIQF, open only to workshop attendees. It was a real treat to have entire booths to yourself for stress-free shopping.  After checking out some quilts, I made sure to set aside some time to visit the Cherrywood booth who was offering a 10% discount Wednesday night only.  I also popped by Superior Threads to load up on some fun new threads and needles.  And of course over the next few days, I picked up some fabric, books, a few patterns and stencils to get a jump start on some fun new projects for 2015.

The most exciting purchase was a new carrier case for my travelling sewing machine.  For the past 4 years, I've been managing with a simple Harbor Freight tool bag that I picked up for a bargain price of $35.  But this past year, it has been showing some signs of wear and tear and I was afraid my machine wasn't as safe stowed inside.  So it was time to upgrade and I had been checking out the Tutto bags for some time now.  So I picked up a travelling bag for my machine as well as a matching bag to transport my projects, fabric, tools etc to my classes and workshops.  I had so much fun loading the Brother machine into its bright teal Tutto bag and discovering all the fun features and storage pockets.  I can't wait to arrive in style (and have everything well-organized) for my next workshop!

Home Sweet Home for my Brother Sewing Machine